10 % Increase On West Coast Humpback Whale Population Each Year

10 % Increase On West Coast Humpback Whale Population Each Year

Western Australia Minister for Environment John Day

WA Whale Documentary Acknowledged Internationally

Victor P Taffa

A Western Australian Documentary which highlights the efforts of the Department of Environment and Conservation’s (DEC) Marine Mammal Rescue Team has been named best documentary at an international film festival.

Sorrento-based filmmakers Leighton and Jodie De Barros this week won the award at the International Film Festival Water – Sea and the Oceans in the Czech Republic for their documentary ‘Whale Patrol’.

Environment Minister John Day said the documentary, which screened on ABC Television in 2009, traced the migration of humpback whales along the WA Coast.

“Whale Patrol takes a close look at the efforts of DEC’s marine mammal disentanglement team of wildlife officers, led by Marine Mammal Specialist Doug Coughran.” Mr. Day said.

“The DEC team has been involved in disentangling whales and other marine mammals since 1992 and has conducted training sessions for other conservation agencies throughout Australia and overseas.”

“In the past 18 years, the team has dealt with 60 incidents but it is encouraging that the number of entanglements each year is decreasing gradually through close collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and the commercial fishing industry.”

The Minister said there had only been about four whale entanglements a year reported to DEC in recent years, compared with as many as nine in 2006. DEC’s marine mammal team also attended 16 whale strandings this year compared with 46 last year.

“The West Coast Humpback Whale Population is estimated at between 17,000 and 22,000 and is thought to be increasing at about 10 % a year.” Mr. Day said.

“Given the increasing population, even with better management to avoid incidents, it is likely that we will encounter more entanglements and strandings.”

Doug Coughran was made a Member of the Order of Australia this year for his service to conservation and the environment, particularly through the disentanglement of whales, as a practitioner and educator.

The public can contact DEC’s Wildcare Hotline on 9474 9055 to report any incidents involving whales or other wildlife.

The Whale Patrol Documentary is available through ABC Shops and ABC Online.